I don’t usually bother with this sort of thing, but I’ve just stuck an entry into the blogging section of the Orwell Prize. Not that I’m getting my hopes up, but it never hurts to promote your work – and thanks to Madam Miaow for cajoling me into it in the first place. Here’s the blurb for the prize, setting out Orwellian values for political writing:
Entries should show:
Political purpose Using the word ‘political’ in the widest possible sense. Desire to push the world in a certain direction, to alter other peoples’ idea of the kind of society that they should strive after (Why I Write)
Clarity Good prose is like a windowpane (Why I Write)
Intellectual courage Intellectual cowardice is the worst enemy a writer or journalist has to face… If liberty means anything at all it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear (Proposed Preface to Animal Farm)
When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish spurting out ink (Politics and the English Language)
Freedom of the intellect means the freedom to report what one has seen, heard, and felt, and not to be obliged to fabricate imaginary facts and feelings (The Prevention of Literature)
Critical thought To exchange one orthodoxy for another is not necessarily an advance. The enemy is the gramophone mind, whether or not one agrees with the record that is being played at the moment (Proposed Preface to Animal Farm)
Artful writing Pleasure in the impact of one sound on another, in the firmness of good prose or the rhythm of a good story. Desire to share an experience which one feels is valuable and ought not to be missed (Why I Write)
Entries should avoid:
staleness of imagery… [and] lack of precision… by using stale metaphors, similes, and idioms, you save much mental effort, at the cost of leaving your meaning vague, not only for your reader but for yourself (Politics and the English Language)
Above all, entries should share Orwell’s ambition:
to make political writing into an art.
Well, I’m not making any great highfalutin claims for my own writing, but it’s not a bad standard to aspire to. Personally, if I manage to entertain readers, that’s enough; if I sometimes provoke you to thought, that’s even better. And best of all is when you kickstart a really good debate.
The specs for the prize involved submitting ten blog posts from the 2009 calendar year. Sifting it down to ten, from the couple of hundred written in the year, was tough and some randomness inevitably creeps in. Those I’ve selected, exclusively from the second half of the year, are not necessarily the most popular (I’m not convinced there’s a huge audience out there for deconstructions of Sammy Wilson), and some of the selections may surprise regular readers, but they’re posts that I liked as pieces of writing, that I think demonstrated some depth of knowledge, and gave some sort of an idea of the cross-section of issues covered here. You’ll note a strong bias towards the local and historical, but then the local aspect of this blog is very much its USP. It’s not all Irishry though – there are a few others in there – and feel free to give these a look if you missed them the first time around.
The ten I eventually picked were:
Democratic Unionist party reptile
A note on cognitive bias
Aaro’s Voodoo Histories, and a few words on conspiratology
The Lost Revolution: a sketch on republican geography
The Lost Revolution: the Intercontinental
Reggie and his malcontents
The fall of the House of Paisley
Fixed and consequent
That would be an ecumenical matter
No sex please, I’m the commissioning editor for drama
And best of luck to all comrades from the left blogosphere who’ve gone in for this.